Been meaning to write a post for a while about my travels abroad, but I’ve been that busy since I got back that I haven’t really had time to. LET’S DO THIS.
So I spent twelve days or so in Eastern Europe, visiting Prague, Krakow and Budapest. There were four of us for the first two cities, and three for Budapest- I went with some friends from home, two of whom I know from school.
First things first: the foooooooooooood. (This is after all my blog) That part of the world isn’t exactly known for its haute cuisine, so the food wasn’t exactly the meticulously-presented fancy dining you might get elsewhere in Europe, but what it does provide is some fantastic heart-warming comfort food that’s fricking delicious. It was generally meat, some form of dumplings (I think I counted five variations on the term), possibly cabbage, and some delicious sauce either similar to a thicker gravy, a goulash or else something loaded with paprika. It was really fricking warm outside, but the food was so tasty that I didn’t go anywhere near summer foods the majority of times we went out for dinner. This was of course generally accompanied with beer so the calories and smiles were in abundance.
Each of the cities were really beautiful, and had some fantastic architecture and greenery around the place. There were some seriously old and grand buildings, and they basically all made Belfast look rubbish in comparison. Prague and Krakow had old towns sections, which were obviously quite touristy but that’s not something that bothers me when a place is as scenic as they were. Budapest on the other hand has its beautiful buildings a bit more spread out, with fantastic architecture in both cities of Buda and Pest- I ended up regularly taking photos of what turned out to be banks and hotels.
Each city had also been affected quite heavily with World War 2, the Holocaust and communism, so each had some seriously interesting points of history- albeit some seriously heavy ones. We went out to the Auschwitz & Birkenau death camps which was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve ever had. It’s not something I find easy to write or talk about, but I strongly advise everyone to go to one of the concentration camps and see just how horrific they were.
On slightly cheerier notes, we were quite lucky with the timing of when we were in Krakow, as there was a street theatre festival going on! Some of it was pretty artistic and therefore went over my head, but others were a bit more comprehensible (usually the ones with magicians, clowns or slapstick- I’m pretty basic). Probably the most memorable was a group of pink aliens running around the old town square causing mayhem: they were chasing people down the street, standing off against police cars, walking into coffee shops, and rubbing their pink face paint all over anyone who stood in front of them. At one point one of them, in a costume that can only really be described as… well, a scrotum, got everyone to hold hands in a circle and chant while he gave birth to a balloon. That was a first.
Last summer I got a bit excited about the whole selfie business, and so in keeping with that tradition I decided to chance my arm and grab a selfie while they were all standing in a group. Scrotum Alien decided he wasn’t going to stand for this and decided to absolutely cover me in pink face paint. Which to be honest I found flipping hilarious. But it meant that once the aliens stole a car and drove off, there was no plausible excuse around as to why exactly I looked like a discoloured smurf. So on my walk back to the hostel to scrub off what turned out to be waterproof face paint, I got more than a few funny looks. Feel free to ask me for a photo!
Overall, I think my favourite city was probably Budapest. The three cities were all beautiful, but I think Budapest just kind of pipped them all to the post. It also seemed to have the most amount of life about the place, and was somewhere I could actually envisage myself living! Although the likelihood of me actually uprooting myself and heading over to Eastern Europe are slim to none.
One of the great attractions of the place was the baths they have there, due to the natural sources of water and some plumbing that apparently the Turks brought across. We went to the Gellert Baths which had some pretty impressive architecture. Sitting in them made me understand why the Romans/Greeks/delete as appropriate used them so much- it was one of the most relaxing experiences of my life. Coming out of there my friend and I felt so fricking zen. I didn’t try, but I probably could have levitated at that point.
Coming back to NI was a bit of a bump, but I was very happy to be here, ready to start work and the next chapter in life! Blog post about that to follow shortly.